Monday, 21 March 2016

Copperas Street shenanigans - more council-owned land sales, planning appeals and other tall storeys

This week, Lewisham Mayor Steve Bullock and his nine-member cabinet will consider a report from the executive director for resources & regeneration which recommends selling off more council-owned land in Deptford to developers.

If the cabinet agrees to this recommendation in its meeting on Wednesday, the disused depot on Copperas Street will be disposed of to developer Kitewood in exchange for some of the new apartments that Kitewood will build on the site.

The five-page document which recommends this move gives a brief summary of the deal that council officers are proposing; full details of costs and the terms of the agreement are contained in the second part of the report which the cabinet will consider in a closed session at the same meeting.

Council officers have been busy negotiating behind closed doors, it seems, what with this deal and the one for Tidemill representing two significant land sell-offs in Deptford alone. As far as the Tidemill site goes, the agreement was built around an exchange of land for new school/library development at the Lounge, and affordable/social housing on the Tidemill site, the application for which is currently under discussion.
From left along the banks of Deptford Creek: the Laban Centre (1), Thanet Wharf (2) (already owned by Kitewood), Copperas St depot (3) and Greenwich Creekside East (in Greenwich borough, already granted planning permission). The existing Creekside Village East is shown on the north side of Copperas St.
On Copperas St the agreement seems to be that the council will buy the adjacent land (which Kitewood effectively owns) for a nominal sum, then lease both parcels of land back to Kitewood for 999 years, and in return will receive 'a number' of units which the council would then lease on the open market, to generate income.

There are no details as to how many units Kitewood intends to build on the land, or how many the council would receive - whether this information is contained in the secret documents is anybody's guess, I assume at this stage with no planning application submitted, it has to be set out in percentages or something.

Unfortunately if the units the council is set to gain to lease out for its own income stream are calculated as a percentage of the total number of units built on the site, it would presumably be in the council's interest to ensure that as many units as possible are shoe-horned onto this waterside plot.

That would not trouble Kitewood too much, considering that it has already submitted a planning application (in the guise of Creekside Village Developments Ltd, a company which shares directors with Kitewood and which is currently dormant) to construct two blocks of flats on the land it already owns at Thanet Wharf - a mere tiddler of just ten storeys next door to a big daddy of 24 storeys which leers over the creek.

It's reassuring to see that not all developers want to dress their schemes up in the wolf's clothing of caring and sharing mixed tenure; the low-rise block with the view across the sterile wasteland of Creekside Village's public realm is reserved for the 'affordable' housing while apartments in the block with the Creek views and rooftop garden will be sold on the private market. Not so much a poor door as a poor block (although I realise in the context of the 'affordable' tag they will hardly be within reach of the average citizen).

Rendering of the 24 storey and ten storey blocks proposed for Creekside Village East (back left) with the outlines of the ten and 21 storey blocks already approved for Greenwich Creekside East shown in red. Viewed from a particularly helpful angle that makes the tower with permission look taller than the one in the application.

The density and scale is similar to the scheme already approved for the parcel of land just over the border in Greenwich, which I wrote about some time ago; if it is passed as proposed, then before long Copperas St will start to exhibit some of the worst aspects of the Isle of Dogs sprawl.

Walking through the existing buildings of 'Creekside Village' is already a difficult task when it's windy - add a few more towers to that and any poor soul trying to negotiate the buildings at ground level will be buffeted from one end of the street to the other without mercy.

The two proposed towers on Thanet Wharf with the Laban Centre on the right. 
This tower is big! It's more than 90m tall and even has space for trees on the top!

This planning application has not yet been approved, and with the chance to snap up the council's land in the offing, and discussions also under way to subsume the Laban Centre's car park into the development, in exchange for new facilities for the Laban Centre, it would make sense for Creekside Village Developments Ltd/Kitewood to wait until the negotiations conclude before progressing with its plans.

But this developer isn't taking any chances, and has already gone to appeal over non-determination of its planning application. The case that CVDL puts to the planning inspectorate is that Lewisham Council has been too slow in determining the case, even though the developer accepts that the appeal should be put in abeyance pending the outcome of the land negotiations.

CVDL has suggested that a date for a public inquiry be set for this summer, to allow time for negotiations to be concluded, a new planning application submitted, and presumably the planning department to reach a favourable outcome for the revised scheme.

I can't help thinking that it is a particularly cynical stance for a potential partner to take, rather like someone you are about to get into bed with making an appointment for the following day at the police station, just in case you sexually assault them. If I was to be charitable I would suggest that they were just taking sensible steps to protect their own interests, but unfortunately the particular language and style of the appeal documents (which are posted with the planning application here) do lend them a somewhat menacing tone which makes me very uneasy.

Update: This item was subsequently withdrawn from the meeting agenda.


Anonymous said...

Great! Together with the Bellways we get a continuous path along the entire creek, eyesores gone, new public space, many new houses, vitalization, new folks that will shop locally, and new revenue for the council: less increases in counciltax, or more people helped in need.

I didn't get the logic that it is terrible that one building is high, and the other one is not? I take it you would need to sell x houses to be able to pay for y affordable ones. If we would get two tall towers to house these people, would it not be better? Or if the rich people were in a less tall but fancy town-house-like development, would then poor be described as "stuck in a tall monstrosity". i.e. is the height really the problem or do you see segregation where it isn't there.

An old Creeksider said...

Couldn't agree more anon 00:23. This piece of land has been left for the 20 years I've been living around here and the proposals are welcome in my opinion. I've lived at various properties around the Creek over the years and I now live at Greenwich Creekside (aka by the Dame as the large glass monstrosity) and I will be overlooked by it so feel reasonably comfortable to say my views count!

You make a good point re what do people want - if yuppie town houses were built there would be an outcry re poor utilisation of land, but build a tower and people moan that they are too tall. Unfortunately the only way to solve the problem of the lack of supply is to build higher.

I know people will moan about them being sold overseas or to rich folk, but at the end of the day they will be rented out and people will live there. Yes, maybe well off people, but that still gets them off the social housing queue leaving the queue more manageable for those that really need assisted housing.

Bring it on, and well done Lewisham council for using this tiny pocket of land so creatively.

Anonymous said...

Do you happen to know if Kitewood have plans to build a bridge over the creek? Thanks

deptford Dame said...

@anon 00.23 as far as I'm aware, there's nothing in my post to suggest that 'it is terrible that one building is high, and the other one is not'. For the record, I'm not really impressed by the design of either, but my point is about segregation, not about the building heights.

@An old Creeksider everyone's views count, I"m always happy to hear them. However your suggestion that the development would get 'well off people' 'off the social housing queue' is irrelevant. Why would such folk be on the 'social housing queue' in the first place? Councils already have measures in place to prioritise 'those that really need assisted housing' in any case, so the only impact of 'making the queue more manageable' is to improve the statistics for the government.

An old Creeksider said...

There are plenty of well off people looking and living in social houses (think the late Bob Crow!).

But anyway, as we all know, prices here are crazy and that is the result of supply and demand. We can't stop the demand ( so the only other way is to increase the supply. Possibly post Brexit demand will cool off but that's another topic all together!

Given the finite resource that is land, towers are the only way to achieve this.

I really don't see the concern around building shoe box towers for rich people to live in as this will get them out of the demand cycle. Without their posh pads, they would be looking at mid-tier properties (pushing those that were only able to afford mid-tier into low tier) and the low tier property hunters will be prices out and need to turn to social housing. So it is important to create supply for the top tier as it indirectly frees up resources further down the ladder.

Anonymous said...

What about a bridge to really give back to the people of the area and help regeneration? Current choices of crossing the Creek is really poor.

Anonymous said...

The same locals that complain about all the new developments in Deptford will be prominading along the revamped creek, market yard and Deptford docks when they are complete. Just like the tourists that will bring money into the area and support local businesses.

Thank your lucky stars Deptford has the location and edge to attract property developers willing to splash money on the area.